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EUROPEAN UNION

Your key questions answered about the Schengen area’s 90-day rule

The EU/Schengen area's '90-day' rule is a complicated one that causes much confusion for travellers - here we answer some of the most common questions from readers of The Local.

Your key questions answered about the Schengen area's 90-day rule
Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

The Schengen ’90-day’ rule applies to non-EU/EEA citizens, including Britons, and limits access to the EU’s Schengen zone to 90 days in every 180 day period. Anyone who wants to stay longer than this will need to apply for a national visa of the country they are visiting. 

Not all citizens of non-EU/EEA countries benefit from the visa-free 90 days. Some nationalities must apply for a visa for any visit to an EU country, even just a one-week holiday. But non-EU citizens including the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders do benefit from it.

The limit of 90 days in every 180 gives you a total of six months per year within the Schengen zone, so for tourists or people who want to visit family or friends its perfectly adequate – the people who tend to have problems with it are second-home owners and those who work on short-term contracts in the EU.

The Schengen area currently includes all EU states apart from Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus although the latter three states intend to join. It also includes the non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (EFTA). Croatia was allowed to join the Schengen area late last year.

You can find a full explanation of how the rule works HERE, and answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions from readers of The Local below.

Does the limit apply to the whole Schengen area?

This is one aspect that frequently catches people out – the 90-day limit refers to the entire Schengen area. So if, for example, you spend 88 days at your second home in Spain you won’t have enough time allocation left for a long-weekend in Paris.

What counts as a ‘day’?

Any time spent in EU/Schengen territory counts as a single day, technically even a couple of minutes. So if you take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then go straight to the airport for a flight to New York, that counts as one day from your allowance.

Do I have to spend 90 days outside the Schengen?

Exactly how to calculate the 90 days causes problems for many. The 90 days can be taken as either one long visit or multiple short ones, and are calculated as a rolling clock.

You can find a full explanation of how to calculate the allowance HERE – but the short version is that at any time of the year, you need to be able to count back 180 days, and within those 180 days not have spent more than 90 of them in the EU/Schengen area.

You may have heard that once you reach 90 you must leave the EU and cannot return for 90 days.

READ ALSO: How to calculate your Schengen 90-day allowance

This is in fact only the case if you actually reach your 90-day limit. So those that stay for a full 90 days consecutively would then have to leave the Schengen area for 90 days, before they can return.

Most people who make multiple short visits find it best not to go above 85 or so days, meaning that they have a couple of days ‘in hand’ for emergencies. They do not then have to spend 90 days outside the EU to “reset the clock”, but can return once they have enough days within the previous 180 period.

What if there’s a strike and I can’t leave in time?

Transport strikes are not unusual in Europe, especially France, but if your plane, train or ferry is cancelled it could lead to you overstaying your 90 days.

The best advice is to keep a couple of days in hand, just in case.

If you do end up accidentally overstaying, then the ‘force majeur‘ rule applies – essentially, you need to be able to prove that it was impossible for you to leave the country on time, which might be difficult as even during a strike period there is usually some transport running, even if it is complicated and expensive to change your travel plans.

What if I live in the EU?

If you are a non-EU/EEA national and your are resident in an EU country – with a visa or residency permit – then clearly the 90-day rule does not apply to your country of residence.

It does, however, apply once you travel to another EU country. So if you live in France and like to spend long holidays in Spain and Italy, then you need to keep track of your 90 days.

In practice, there is usually little in the way of border controls when you are travelling within the EU so it’s unlikely that your passport will be stamped or even checked. However, technically the rules does apply.

What are the penalties for over staying?

If you have over-stayed your 90 days you can be fined, deported and banned from re-entry to the EU.

In practice, enforcement varies between countries and most countries keep the toughest penalties for people who have overstayed for many months or even years, or who are working illegally.

READ ALSO What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit?

The most likely scenario for people who have over-stayed for a short time is a fine – French authorities have been issuing €198 fines to over-stayers – and a stamp in the passport flagging the person as an over-stayer. This stamp will likely lead to added complications on future trips, and can make getting a visa more difficult.

What if I get a visa?

People who want to spend more than 90 days in every 180 in the EU/Schengen area will need to get a visa.

However, there is no such thing as an ‘EU visa’ that allows you unlimited access to the bloc. You will need to get a national visa for the country where you spend the most time.

You can then continue to use your 90-day limit to visit other countries within the EU.

All countries have different rules on visas, but for most people who want to spend long periods in the EU without actually moving there, a short-stay visitor visa is the best option.

What if I’m married to an EU citizen? 

Citizens of EU and Schengen zone countries benefit from EU freedom of movement, so are not constrained by the 90-day rule. This, however, does not extend to non-EU spouses.

If you want to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen zone, you will still need a visa (or look to obtain EU citizenship through marriage).

What if I get a new passport?

People travelling under the 90-day rule usually have their passports stamped on entry and exit, in order to keep track of their 90 days.

However passports are also scanned on entry and exit, so a record exists beyond the passport page with its stamp. Therefore getting a new passport does not restart your 90 days, no matter that all the pages are lovely and blank.

What will EES and ETIAS change?

This brings us onto EES, the EU’s new system of border control which involves extra checks at the border – including fingerprints and facial scans – and automatic scanning of passports.

The implementation date has been postponed several times – it’s now due in 2024 – but this will make it harder for over-stayers to slip through the net.

Find a full explanation of the new system HERE.

Could this change for second-home owners?

Definitely the most-asked question at The Local is whether some kind of special deal may be forthcoming for second-home owners.

All we can say for certain is that there are no plans currently in place, and as the 90-day rule is an EU one it would have to be discussed at an EU level.

Individual countries could choose to introduce a special visa for second-home owners, but this still wouldn’t be the same as the paperwork free stays that EU citizens enjoy.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany moves to avoid price hikes for €49 ticket ‘until 2025’

After months of debate, Germany has taken a step toward securing the price of the €49 ticket - but only until the end of the year.

Germany moves to avoid price hikes for €49 ticket 'until 2025'

The price of the ‘Deutschlandticket’ will remain stable at €49 this year thanks to an amendment to the Regionalisation Act initiated by the cabinet.

But a price increase for 2025 is still expected.

Thanks to the amendment, funds not used in 2023 can be brought forward to finance the ticket this year.

This procedure, which was already promised by the federal government, is a prerequisite for maintaining the Deutschlandticket price at €49 per month. 

German states have been calling for the funds to be brought forward for months. Some local transport companies were reportedly operating in the red due to the delays.

At a recent meeting of the state transport ministers it was announced that a ticket price increase can be expected from 2025.

Federal government says that states are responsible for the price

This follows recent news that the €49 ticket could get more expensive even before the end of this year due to delays in the financing.

NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens) said, “It’s good that the federal government has finally taken the first step towards securing price stability for 2024, even with a 9-month delay.” 

For 2025, however, the potential price increase has still not been settled.

“The fact that regionalisation funds will be cut, which affects states’ ability to offer discounts on the Deutschlandticket, makes its future even more uncertain,” he added.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said at the transport ministers’ conference that the states can decide independently on the pricing of the Deutschlandticket. 

To consolidate the budget, the federal government plans to retain €350 million of the regionalisation funds for 2025, for the states to receive in 2026 if they can prove that funds went to supporting the Deutschlandticket price.

READ ALSO: How much could Germany’s Deutschlandticket cost in 2025?

The Green parliamentary group has said that it will work in the budget negotiations this fall to ensure that the current price of €49 euros per month remains. 

“We Greens will fight in the negotiations on the budget to ensure that there is no price increase,” said Green parliamentary group leader Katharina Dröge to Die Welt.

Why is the price constantly debated?

Germany’s federal and state governments had previously agreed to offset half of the operating costs of the Deutschlandticket with the regionalisation funds – which were previously set aside.

Nevertheless, disputes about the long-term security of the ticket continue constantly.

Meanwhile the transport companies report revenue losses due to the cheaper offer. 

For example, the Munich Transport Association (MVV) recently said it was facing a financing deficit of €300 million.

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